Factories bring a halt to legal threats hanging over protesting beef farmers

Farmers protest outside ABP Christendom, Ferrybank, Co Waterford. Photo Roger Jones.
Farmers protest outside ABP Christendom, Ferrybank, Co Waterford. Photo Roger Jones.
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

High Court actions taken by a number of meat factories against protesting beef farmers have been discontinued, court documents lodged last week show.

Other factories are expected to end their pursuit of legal remedies in the coming days and weeks.

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Two processors, Kepak and Anglo Beef Processing Ireland, have both filed a Notice of Discontinuance in their High Court proceedings against farmers after blockades and pickets erected outside factories in protest at beef prices were removed last week.

They were two of a number of factories nationwide which sought legal action after protests disrupted meat production at their plants, leading to thousands of people being laid off work.

The protests at factory gates were stood down last week following marathon talks at the Department of Agriculture between processors and farmers' groups.

The agreement will see increased prices for beef farmers and reform of the sector but was due to come into effect only once the protests ended.

In turn, factories agreed to end all legal proceedings against people involved in the blockades once they had been removed.

While not all of the factories have informed the courts of their intention to end legal actions, sources close to the negotiations in recent weeks told the Sunday Independent that some processors have contacted farmers informing them of their intention to issue a formal Notice of Discontinuance with the High Court in the coming days or weeks.

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Meat Industry Ireland (MII), the representative body for the beef-processing sector, said the withdrawal of legal proceedings is a matter for the individual companies concerned.

"The position across the industry is that the industry is complying with the terms of the agreement which involves meat processors undertaking to desist or withdraw from legal actions," a MII spokesman said.

"The legal actions are a matter for individual companies and we don't have up-to-date line of sight of where all of those actually are."

Documents show Kepak informed the High Court of its intention to withdraw legal proceedings against the Beef Plan movement last Thursday.

Beef Plan is a grassroots organisation made up of farmers calling for better conditions and prices for beef.

Further documents show Anglo Beef Processing Ireland also informed the High Court last Thursday it does not intend to continue proceedings against the farming group.

The High Court has yet to receive formal declarations from a number of other factories of their intention to withdraw their legal actions against Beef Plan and a number of individual farmers.

Beef Plan co-chair Eamon Corley said he is aware of individual farmers who are unsure if actions taken against them have been dropped. However, he said an agreed window within which the proceedings had to be dropped has not yet passed.

He said a number of other phases of the agreement, including improved base prices for beef, a commitment to engage with producers' organisations, increased transparency and reviews of the sector, can then become the focus going forward.

"The more these are dropped, the more opportunity people have to move on," he added.

Sunday Independent

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